Originals

If Only My Immigrant Great Grandfather Could See Me Now, He’d Say “Where Am I?”

Look at us, huh? Doing well for ourselves and we’ve come such a long way from where our immigrant ancestors started almost 100 years ago. My parents said my grandfather came to this country with nothing but the clothes on his back. He had no money to his name, just a dream in his heart. If only my immigrant great grandfather could see us now he’d say, “Where the hell am I? Who are you? What is this? When is it? Why?!”

 

First, I’d show him the thriving computer software company we built. And then I’d want him to meet my wife and hold his great great grandchildren. I just know he’d be so happy to see how far we’ve come as a family. He’d probably say, “I appreciate your hospitality but I don’t need anything from you. I don’t know how I got here, do you understand me? One minute I’m resting peacefully and now I’m dropped here without explanation. Unless your computers and software have something to do with how I was brought here, there’s no use explaining them to me. And I really don’t know why you keep giving me children. It’s not a good idea to hand your children to someone you just met. Do you understand me? I don’t know what’s happening right now. What is the train schedule? I need to leave. I don’t want to be here.”

 

I’d tell him that while my father (his grandson) has passed and my grandfather (his son) died many years ago, they helped so much in raising me into the man I am today. I would thank him for that. I’d let him know that they made all the difference in my world and it’s due to him making a difference in theirs. He’d say, “Thank me? Thank you for breaking the news that my entire family is dead! I really appreciate your thoughtfulness in picking fun conversation topics and general warm regard for someone who’s traveled 100 years into the future against their will and is trying to find their bearings in a new world! It’s a shame though, you could’ve gone into more detail about how they died and the amount they suffered in their final moments. That’s exactly the kind’ve stuff I need to hear right now as I’m cowering from the sight of gigantic airplanes flying overhead and covering my ears from the bizarre, alien music coming out of that flat box. If you used this new technology to get me here, please, use it to send me back.”

 

Even if he didn’t totally understand what was going on, he’d see that I’m very happy with the life I’ve been able to live thanks to his courage. The courage he had to embark on a journey into a brand new country is something I’ll never forget as long as I live. I’d want him to know how grateful I am for him. He’d probably say, “Okay let me set another thing straight: I did not come to this country to suffer for your future. If you really want to know the truth, I was running from the law. America was the only place left to go and someone told me they had a big green lady there. I was young and naïve and I wanted to look up the green lady’s robe. This person, who turned out to be a bad source, told me I could. There, I said it. I know that’s not the story you want to brag to your friends about but it’s the real one. And before you judge me, remember, we have the same genetics and my so-called ‘crime’ happened during a duel which was legal back then. I guess you’re not allowed to shoot before they count to three.”



 

I think the most interesting part would just be sitting there and listening to him talk for hours. There’s so many stories we’ve lost over the years, imagine the wealth of information about his era and long lost knowledge he’d share with us. He’d probably say, “We may vaguely look alike but you have to understand that when I was alive there were many people who looked like me. If you’d like to know why that is, the answer is simple: my mother—your great great grandmother—was a very popular prostitute. Okay? Is that what you want to hear? Cause that’s the truth. And this was in the days before modern contraception so I had a lot of half brothers and sisters running around. Had enough yet? You want some more family history? I have more. It only gets worse from there. I’m happy to share it unless you’ve had your fill. Since we’re on the topic, let’s just say one of those half sisters—the one I won FAIRLY in that duel—later became your great grandmother. How long did that take to tell you, a minute? I could get through a lot of material in an hour. Do you want to know more? I can keep going, it’s up to you. No? I didn’t think so. Things were very different back then, okay? Very different.”

 

It’s a shame a conversation like that would never happen but at least we have his heirlooms to admire. He left those guns that I polished up real nice and some beautiful furniture my wife restored. Those fun projects really helped us feel closer to him. If he saw our ingenuity and stewardship of his possessions, he’d say, “You idiots! You ruined all my shit! Who takes a handmade, Italian dresser with dark auburn wood grain and paints it black? Morons! And why would you clean my guns? That takes away all the value! What arms collector will want them now? To think, the gun could’ve accidentally gone off in your face when you were cleaning the barrel and instead the same gun went off when I dueled that guy for my half-sister’s hand in marriage. I’m starting to think having children with my half sister had a negative effect on our future generations’ intelligence or something.”

by Robert Criss

Robert Criss

Robert Criss is a writer from Pittsburgh who writes to save the family farm. You can find his work right above this biography or below depending on where this biography is placed on the page in relation to the work. Follow his instagram @robertcriss